…Takes hygiene education, handwashing promotion to schools
The Federal Government has directed the establishment of sanitation desks in the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
The directive, a fall-out of the nation’s commemoration of the 2021 Hand Washing Day (HWD) themed ‘Our future is at hand – let’s move forward together’, was given by the Minister of State for Environment, Barr. Sharon Ikeazor, during the ceremony held at the Federal Government Boys College (FGBC), Apo, Abuja, today (October 15).
She decried the low level of handwashing compliance in Nigeria, despite measures by government, even as she attributed it to slow behavioural changes which fuel the spread of infectious diseases.
“In recent times, the Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with stakeholders cutting across government at all levels, organized private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community-based organisations (CBOs), academia, development partners etc., has taken steps to deliver adequate sanitation and hygiene services to the citizenry.
“These measures include capacity-building, provision of handwashing facilities in schools, advocacy/sensitization, environmental health surveillance of public places, development of policy, regulatory and legislative frameworks, implementation of relevant programmes and projects, establishment of relevant regulatory and enforcement agencies etc. Despite these measures, the level of handwashing compliance in Nigeria remains abysmally low as behavioural changes are slow, thus fueling the spread of infectious diseases,” she said.
Ikeazor charged all state governments, commissioners of environment, local government chairmen/councillors, environmental health officers, NGOs, CBOs, FBOs, development partners, organized private sector etc., across the country to actively step up their campaigns on hand-washing as an effective means of preventing disease transmission.
“Addressing sanitation and hygiene challenges in the country is a necessary and worthwhile investment for government at all levels and is a way to significantly improve the health, education, social and economic status of the country. This is because, for every
N100 spent improving sanitation and hygiene, between N300 and N400 is saved and can be invested in health, education, social and economic development. Therefore, I want to use this opportunity to call on Nigerians, especially those in places of authority (public or private) to ensure adequate provision for sanitation and hygiene, including handwashing facilities at all times,” she stated.
The minister further said the choice of a school to commemorate this year’s global hand-washing day was quite deliberate because children (including those at school) are at particular risk of infections associated with poor water, sanitation and hygiene.
“Therefore, in marking this year’s event, we are carrying out proper hygiene education and handwashing promotion for schools, in order to entrench the culture of proper handwashing in children and help prevent disease transmission, particularly diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the leading causes of death in children globally. The Federal Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education, organised a training workshop and quiz competition on hand hygiene and sanitation for selected schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Handwashing equipment and materials were presented to some schools during this event as a way to further encourage and promote hand hygiene,” she added.
In his goodwill remarks, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Arc. Sonny Echono, said the 2021 Global Handwashing Day organized by the Ministry of Environment, with support from the education ministry and Procter and Gamble (P&G), served as a platform to raise awareness on the importance of handwashing.
“The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought the consequences of ignoring constant handwashing to the fore and highlighted the need for collective action to address the issue. As we are all aware, handwashing has been adjudged the simplest and cost-effective way to prevent the spread of diseases and ensure better health outcomes for all,” he said.
Earlier, the P&G senior manager, Nigeria and Africa Expansion Markets, Global Government Relations and Public Policy, Ridwan Sorunke, said the day was about taking action to increase access and the practice of handwashing with soap to foster community action on hand hygiene, in a bid to stop the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. As partners, it is important to provide the tools and resources to sustain handwashing practices, especially in high-risk areas like markets, schools and hospitals.
“In our bid to commemorate the 2021 Global Handwashing Day, we have partnered with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Education to raise awareness and understanding of the importance of handwashing with soap among secondary school students through the donation of handwashing stations and over 5,000 Safeguard soap bars. We have stationed low-cost, mobile handwashing stations in schools so children can wash their hands at key moments,” he said.
The high point of the event was the presentation of prizes to schools that participated in the quiz competition for primary and secondary schools.
For the primary category, City Royal Junior School, Nyanya, emerged winners while the Federal Government College Staff Nursery and Primary School, Kwali clinched the second position and Federal Government Girls College Staff Foundation School settled for third.
In the secondary category, Federal Government Girls College, Bwari came first, Federal School Technical College, Orozo, emerged second while Federal Government Girls College, Rubochi came in at third place.